During the third year of my university course I participated in a placement year where I worked and learnt skills whilst also taking part in distance learning modules which covered my academic learning and assessments. I managed to secure a placement at a company called Peregrine Live Foods; they specialise in reptile supplies, feeds, and exotic animals. During the placement I was working in the livestock department, this department is responsible for the care of all live animals for sale as pets; and also breeding stocks for certain species. The placement year had its good and bad points throughout but overall was an insightful and educational placement. I am going to go through and reflect on my experiences from the start to the end of my placement; following a reflective template model (Gibbs 1988) which helps to critique and analyse experiences fully. (Husebø et al., 2015)
The first aspect of the placement was having an interview in order to make sure I was a suitable candidate for the company. I was very nervous and anticipated questions which I would struggle to answer. I wanted to make a good impression so made sure that I was there a little e early and was dressed in a smart manner. On arrival I was greeted and had a conversation with a recruitment officer about my course at university and what it entailed, I was asked a few questions such as “so what do you know about this company” Although I was nervous I tried to answer as best as I could Luckily I had prepared and made sure I had researched the company so was ready for such a question. After this I was given a tour of the facilities and introduced to key members of staff, I was able to ask question and show interest in certain areas. At then end of the process I was given a formal place and accepted the placement. Although I was nervous, I feel like the interview process went very well and I managed to portray myself in a way that represent myself ad my university in a professional manner. If there were any negatives that I could pick up on and improve for another time; it would probably be to make sure I ask important questions after accepting an offer to help a smooth process afterwards. This was because after accepting my place I was not certain on the hours I was expected to do and how it would fit in with my distance learning, this was resolved over email but there was a little confusion at first. Next time I would be certain to ask these questions in person and resolve as early as possible as it may have not worked out as easy as it did time.
My few weeks were exciting, and I managed to learn a lot of new information. I was shadowing the team leader of the department for a few week’s so that I was able to grips with the daily routine and learn how to undertake certain tasks. I was unfamiliar with a lot of processes and husbandry of certain species, this is because my educational background revolved around equine or small animal studies whereas my placement was based on reptiles and exotics which I have had no previous background in. I made this clear when I was shadowing the team leader and they made sure to help me learn the basics quickly and gave me the support I needed to gain knowledge on the species I was working with. Although this put me at a small disadvantage during the first few days I did not let this dishearten me, instead it made me strive to learn and ask questions to the staff in the department whenever I was unsure or wanted to know something. I was able to use the experiences of the other team members to help with my own growth in the industry, especially when it came to the husbandry and breeding of certain species. By the time I was three months in I had settled comfortably and felt like I had a lot more knowledge and understanding then I did when I started. I was able to pick up complex terms being used and take part in all areas of the department.
During the placement I also had to juggle in distance learning modules, other part time work and social/family life. This required a lot of time planning and at pints was very difficult to fit it all in. At first the distance learning took a back seat whilst I settled in at the placement, however this meant catching up at a later date which added a larger load of work and was difficult to fit in to an already crammed week. The distance learning was aimed at providing the academic part of the year in small parts which were also given small recommend deadlines in order to get assignments done in small pieces every few weeks. This worked well and was only recommended; so that as students we cold get it done in our own time and whenever it fitted in. The first few months went well but after that it became difficult to juggle my part time work and fit in time for the academic modules. I fell behind and struggled to catch up; this ended up in rushing some pieces and grades were not as good as they could have been. I found that I had to much to fit into each week as my placement only gave me one day of during the week and then the weekend was always taken by working my part time job in order to cover my finances. This in the end gave me no choice but to rely on family for a small bit of financial aid in order to free up a few weekends and make sure that all the distance Learning outcomes had been completed and take a weight of my shoulders. In the future if I was to do something like this again I would consider the work load and make sure that enough time was allocated so that the work is able to be completed at a good standard and that it is maintained and not left till the last minute, this may entail looking and applying for financial aid and support or possibly finding a paid placements so that any time off can be used sufficiently.
The placement helped me to gain knowledge and grow experience with reptiles and exotics, I managed to learn skills such as basic handling, feeding techniques and breeding templates. When I started, I was very sacred of spiders and some invertebrate species, however from gaining knowledge and learning about them my confidence grew and I was able to care and handle for some species. Spiders was always one that I couldn’t do much with due to this nature however by the end of my placement I managed to gain the confidence to work with small spiderlings care for them. Large spiders are still a fear of mine but in the future with regular work around them I hope to grow the confidence to start doing piece of work that involve them.
The placement entailed of me doing three 8-hour days every week, but I remained flexible on these days as to when the provider needed me. This gave the provider assurance that I am I flexible worker and will do what I can to help when needed. I thought It was important to remain as flexible as possible to show good employability. Showing good employability was a key point as I hoped a job was maybe available at the end of my placement, I made my myself as employable as possible to being flexible, arriving on time and working at a good speed whilst completing tasks suitably. I also stayed late on a few occasions to help out for the dame reasons, however a few times this also maximised my learning experiences and the company often received shipments of animals from abroad late a night and by helping I was able to learn about new species and there setups. It was also fascinating to see how the animals are packed for transport on a plane from counties such as Vietnam.
During the last few months of my placement I was approached by a manager and had a meeting with them, I did not know what to expect however the meeting went better then I could have ever expected; during previous discussions about my course and my future pans I had spoken about my aims to go to vet school afterwards but that it may not be financially applicable and his may be the downfall that holds be back. During this meeting they laid out plans and offered to fund my future degree and support me though it as a company; entailing me to work for them and help them set up a vets practice afterwards as a form of pay back in essence. I was overwhelmed by the offer and we had a conversation about it all, they gave me the opportunity to chat to whoever I needed to and sort out application processes. This gave me and still gives me a lot to decide and figure out with eh company. However, the offer is amazing and to me shows that my hard work and keen attitude did not go unnoticed.
Another important highlight of the placement was during the end when I was asked to help represent the company at a summer nobs/ Carrere fair at my own university. I went along and was able to help talk to other students about the company and what they have to offer. The students were able to relate to the company due to its animal nature and seemed interested, because I am a student at the university the students found it easy to approach the stand. The fair helped me to test my knowledge and everything I leaned during my placement as students asked all sorts of questions which I was encouraged to answer by my colleagues. Although I felt like I had learnt a lot some of the questions did test me and I wasn’t sure on a few, this made me go back after and look those up for future reference though.
As an overview the placement year was an adventure and helped me to broaden my understanding on animals to reptiles and exotics which I may not have had the chance to do otherwise. Although I did not know much at first, I was not looked down upon but instead encouraged to learn and ask questions whenever needed. The placement shows me that my employability skills as good and they they managed to pay off as I was given and exciting offer and also a job at the end. Although there were a few bad points and parts were not interesting, most of the placement was good and went well and a lot was learnt with good outcomes.
Husebø, S. E., O’Regan, S. and Nestel, D. (2015) ‘Reflective Practice and Its Role in Simulation.’ Clinical Simulation in Nursing. (Theory for Simulation), 11(8) pp. 368–375.